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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by panini on August 17, 2019, 10:10:09 AM »
"Grammatically correct" generally means "follows certain normative rules", such as set forth in Strunk & White. This "subjunctive" form is dying out in actual speech, so you will encounter a range of uses and opinions, depending on who you ask. If you say something like "Had I known about the train, I would have left earlier", you will mark yourself as "talking funny". You could get away with it in a formal lecture, but not if you're just chatting with your mates at the local, or having a beer with friends at the bar. It is most-dead in the US, among the young. OTOH, *"Have I known about the train,...." is just plain and universally ungrammatical. If you use it, you're socially expected to use it correctly, following those normative rules (whatever they are). Your shirt example is a good example of people making stuff up – hyper-rationalizing.

IMO it is most productive to focus on classical conditional contexts – the difference between "If he had dug a hole" vs. "If he dug a hole" or "If he has dug a hole"; "If he were rich" vs. "If he was rich" or "If he is rich". For me, "If he has dug a hole, he would be covered in dirt" is not quite ungrammatical, but I really don't like it. But I suspect that the kids on the corner talk that way. If your goal is to emulate a certain social class, e.g. The Posh (of England), then you probably need a Posh tutor. I believe that if you can get the had/has difference figured out in this context (actual conditionals), you might be able to apply that to the other contexts where "if" is used.








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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Natalia on August 17, 2019, 07:16:45 AM »
Of course it is. The thing is, I just want to be sure I use good English at the same time. I hope you know what I mean. And the reason why I asked which form might be possibly considered more correct is that once I asked my English friend why she used "have" instead of "had" in: "I wanted to know if you have this shirt in blue", and she replied:

"The reason I used the present tense in the example is because you would be physically present in the store and interested in the current availability. However, when you’re using a past structure as well as an “if” clause, you can also use “had.” The meaning is pretty much the same, with “had” sounding slightly more tentative. You’ll hear both in natural speech, but “had” is probably more grammatically correct."
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Forbes on August 17, 2019, 04:21:58 AM »
I just wasn't sure if we could combine present and past forms together in a "if" sentence, but apparently we can.

The point is not so much that the sentence with "were" can be classed as ungrammatical, but that (especially when asked to consider it) it seems to have lost its way with the two halves being out of sync. Panini hits the nail on the head when he says: 'By selecting "were" in your pair, you are suggesting that the addressee is not free, which is a way of defeating the inference that you've just imposed an obligation on the addressee (since the sentence is plainly a request for a meeting).'
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Daniel on August 16, 2019, 01:28:04 PM »
The term "correct" is not something that linguists use. Regardless, it's more important to understand what is appropriate to convey the meaning you want to express.
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Natalia on August 16, 2019, 12:36:29 PM »
OK I'll try to think this way. But just to be sure, when we are talking about grammatical correctness, can we say in this particular case than one form is *more* correct than the other, or not really?
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Daniel on August 16, 2019, 12:11:24 PM »
Again, try to understand not with rules but with patterns and effects of those patterns. Why would you say it one way or another? Your textbook will tell you rules. Linguists look for and try to explain patterns.

Yes, in general, you could say either one, but the most neutral would be present tense.
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Natalia on August 16, 2019, 11:59:51 AM »
Based on what you have said here, I assume that the sentence "I thought maybe we could have a little chat now if you are free?" sounds better (especially when we are addressing our friend etc.) and is considered correct grammar? On the other hand, the past form "were" could be used if we wanted to sound sort of less direct and more polite?

I just wasn't sure if we could combine present and past forms together in a "if" sentence, but apparently we can. There is even the following sentence in my notebook (the lesson was about mixed conditionals and the sentence was given by my teacher as an example of 1 + 2 conditional, where we mix the hypotheticity):
I'm giving you the money if you wanted to buy something.
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by Daniel on August 16, 2019, 10:08:11 AM »
No, but I was using that to illustrate whether it's intended as basically an independent sentence. It only makes sense with "were" within the scope of the conditional, "copying" that form from the previous clause.
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Morphosyntax / Re: ...if you are / were free
« Last post by panini on August 16, 2019, 07:58:52 AM »
I would not rely much on intonation? If you know what I mean?
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English / Re: Is there any difference between these 2 sentences?
« Last post by Daniel on August 16, 2019, 07:49:28 AM »
You wrote the same sentence twice. Are you asking if it's ambiguous in some specific way? (All sentences can get different meanings in different contexts. That's what contexts do.)
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